Overview: In 2019, the Government of Maldives’s CT efforts concentrated on CVE and limiting the flow of FTFs. Those within the penal system or involved in criminal gangs are at a heightened risk of terrorist radicalization. The government claims that 188 cases related to “religious extremism” were reported between January 1, 2014, and October 31, 2019. Of these, 14 were brought forward for prosecution.
In October, Maldivian police arrested ISIS-K recruiter Mohamad Ameen on “suspicion of spreading extremist ideology.” Ameen recruited for ISIS in Syria, Afghanistan, and Maldives. Media reports also alleged that Ameen was suspected of involvement in the September 2007 Sultan Park bombing in Malé.
In October, Maldives passed an amendment strengthening its 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act. The amendment clarified the definition of terrorism, expanded the number of chargeable offenses related to terrorism, and introduced a monitoring mechanism to prevent politically motivated prosecutions.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Maldives in 2019.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Anti-Terrorism Act is the primary legislation for preventing and prosecuting terrorism. In October, the government passed an amendment strengthening the ATA. This amendment authorizes the Maldives Police Service (MPS) to make warrantless arrests for criminal acts defined as terrorism; criminalizes supporting “extremist” ideologies, departing for a war zone without government authorization, assisting individuals attempting to join militant groups, and withholding information regarding terrorism from authorities; and introduces longer prison sentences for terrorism. The amendment requires the establishment of a rehabilitation and reintegration center for returning Maldivian FTFs, including a separate space for women and children deemed victims who did not commit acts of terrorism. The law also creates a new CT risk assessment committee to assess whether repatriated individuals engaged in acts of terrorism or might be inclined to do so in the future. Parliament was given oversight authority through a monitoring mechanism in the amendment to prevent politically motivated prosecutions such as those that occurred in 2018 and previously.
In September, the government designated 17 terrorist organizations under the ATA, criminalizing participation in, or support to, such organizations.
In September, the Presidential Commission on Deaths and Enforced Disappearances released its findings regarding the 2014 disappearance of Maldivian journalist Ahmed Rilwan, concluding he was abducted and killed by a Maldivian terrorist group linked to al-Qa’ida. The commission asked the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to appeal the acquittal of two suspects accused of involvement in the killing and determine whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute additional individuals suspected of involvement.
In November 2018, the Criminal Court ordered the conditional release of two Maldivians charged in November 2017 with conspiring with ISIS to launch a suicide attack in Malé, based on their treatment during detention. The Maldivian High Court reversed this decision in April and ordered the two individuals detained for the duration of their trials.
The MPS is responsible for CT investigations. It transfers cases to the PGO for the duration of trials. Responsibility for CT operations, including investigations, primarily rests with MPS. The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), including the marines and coast guard, are responsible for CT response. The MNDF conducts routine Subject Matter Expert Exchanges and Joint Combined Exercise and Training engagements with U.S. forces focused on CT operations. The engagements also enhance maritime security capabilities to increase Maldives domain awareness and security. Maldives and the United States partnered in 2019 to upgrade the U.S.-provided PISCES integrated border management system. Information sharing on potential security threats between Maldivian security agencies has improved but remains a challenge.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Maldives is a member of the APG. There were no significant updates in 2019.
Countering Violent Extremism: In July, President Solih announced Maldives’ intent to facilitate the return and prosecution of Maldivian FTFs and families in Syria. According to MPS Commissioner Hameed’s December 16 public remarks, there are approximately 1,400 “religious extremists” located in the Maldives. The Maldives’ National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) held numerous regional workshops and capacity building exercises with both public and private sector groups, to include counter-narrative creation, the role of educators in countering “extremism,” and aviation security. In October, President Solih announced a five-year CVE strategic action plan, designating the NCTC as the national coordination body for these efforts. Malé is a member of the SCN.
International and Regional Cooperation: Government officials participated in and jointly hosted multiple international and regional workshops on CT efforts. In February 2019, a joint report was issued by the NCTC, UNDP, and Government of Japan on youth vulnerability in the Maldives. This report highlighted concerns over the increasing use of religion as a political weapon and the increasing influence of Salafism. It also highlighted concern about the number of foreign preachers present in the Maldives and their role in recruitment for terrorist organizations. In October, CTED conducted a visit to examine issues relating to CVE. The NCTC, in conjunction with CTED, hosted a three-day regional workshop on obtaining electronic evidence in CT investigations. Additionally, in October, the government concluded an agreement with the Government of Japan for $4.6 million in Japanese aid to bolster CT efforts.